The Masculinity Spectrum In Cricket

I wanted to add a quick note to my previous post on Jason Alexader’s gay cricket joke:

One worry I have about the IPL is that it portrays a distinctly one-dimensional mode of playing cricket (i.e., to quote Danny Morrison, “OH YES, THAT’S A BIG ONE!”). The players who succeed are the ones who hit, hit and hit; the only variance is whether they hit during 70 balls or 10, but as long as their strike rates are high, they will win praise and results. Now, that’s nobody’s fault (the format demands it), but it does reduce the models of masculinity on display. In Test cricket, there is space for Chanderpaul and Dravid and Cook, men who show that the patient accumulation of success is a viable road to success. Ducking the ball, leaving it, defending against it — that’s not only viable but praise-worthy. By contrast, in T20, there’s basically just Gayle and Gayle-lite: you are there to murder the ball, take the risk, and swear like a sailor upon arriving at your century. To the extent you equate masculinity with aggression and “attitood,” T20 is your game.

In some sense, there is more than just the logic of limited overs at work here. If you were born in the 1980s in India, you have mostly heard only about growth, salary hikes and opportunity; you have little idea of what the previous generation experienced. But the difference between 2.5% growth (which is what the 1950s birth cohort had) and roughly 6% post-1980s is immense; in the former, you made it ahead through connections, moderation, hard work and LOTS of saving; in the latter, hard work matters, but so does an aggressive entrepreneurial spirit. What we’re seeing in the Kohlis and Murali Vijay celebrations, then, isn’t just a bunch of young players letting off a steam of attitude. We’re seeing some father-slaying as well: the distant, hard-working father who constantly worried and wrung his anxious hands is gone; the son will outshine him and do it faster, harder and better.



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